1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Ugly Salon Forward Cabinet Pretty

I’m on a roll with the OEM cabinet interiors, and the stack of 1/8″ mahogany plywood is shrinking by the week. The salon aft cabinet and galley cabinet interior veneer panels are all cut. Next I took on the ugly salon forward cabinet.

The salon forward cabinet

I’ve wanted to get rid of the formica countertop for years

This is why I don’t like contact cement

You can see in the pic above that there’s very little surface area of the formica that was actually bonded to the plywood underlayment. On the edge, it wasn’t bonded at all. I’ve seen the same thing with interior paneling veneers on old Chris Crafts. It might look fine when it leaves the factory, but over time those unbonded edges come lose, condensation can get in between the panels and weaken the bond further. And that’s why I’ve been using the much more time-consuming process of using epoxy to bond veneer panels. I never want these things to let loose!

Bye-bye formica!

That’s one ugly cabinet interior

Looking down at the cabinet floor

Douglas fir marine plywood scrap levels the floor

Not bad!


Nice joints!

The panels in the pic above are only held in with friction. That’s a ‘just right’ fit with the other panels. Once the panels are varnished and epoxied in place, the joints should look pretty good.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Aft Salon Cabinet


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Ugly Galley Cabinet Pretty

I’m still working on getting estimates for the damage to the boat from the big Nor’easter that ripped through the area. In the meantime, I had a big pile of relatively fragile 1/8″ mahogany plywood in a full 4×8 sheet and also a lot of large scraps that I wanted to get out of the way. I used it to veneer the bulkhead between the galley and V-berth and also for the insulated ceiling on the underside of the port deck. I’ll use the rest to make the OEM cabinet interiors in the salon and galley pretty. The white paint Chris Craft used didn’t look very good when it was new, and it looks pretty shabby almost 50 years later. The missus and I prefer to see pretty wood on the inside of cabinets, so that’ll be a great spot to use up the leftovers. The aft salon cabinet looks much better with the veneer panels cut and fitted. I did the galley cabinet interior next.

The big pile of 1/8″ mahogany plywood scraps

The ugly galley cabinet

Removing the fiddles took more time than I expected

The fiddles were screwed to the plywood shelf, puttied over, and the cabinet was painted a very long time ago. Unfortunately, two of the screws are back behind the cabinet face panel. Getting them out without breaking anything was a bit of a challenge.

One down, one to go

The plywood pile gets smaller

One box down…

None of the angles in here are 90°, which makes no sense because the cabinet is basically rectangular. Chris Craft was a production boat maker (the largest in the world at the time), but still…you’d think they could have cut the panels square. Getting nice, tight panel joints is much more challenging when nothing is square.

Middle box is done…on to the bottom

The bottom of the bottom box is framed out with ugly cleats

Filling it in with scrap Douglas fir plywood will make for a nice, flat bottom

The pile of 1/8″ mahogany gets smaller by the day!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Ugly Salon Forward Cabinet Pretty

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Salon Aft Cabinet

My main plan for 2018 is to keep working on weather-proofing the boat, which means rebuilding the toe rail-to-bilge vent ducts. Until those are done, any water that ends up going down the vent holes in the toe rail will end up landing on interior wood that isn’t intended for water exposure. I finished up the salon port side ducts and associated nearby plywood panels in March. But then I realized that I’m moving a lot of 1/8″ mahogany plywood around, and the big pile of useful scraps are getting in the way. I’m going to get this stuff out of the way by using it to make the OEM cabinet interiors pretty.

The OEM salon cabinets are really ugly on the inside

I’ve had a Chris Craft Constellation 52 (a 1967 wooden boat), a 1968 Commander 42 (FRP hull), and this 1969 Roamer, and every one of them had really ugly cabinet interiors. Even if the cabinets are made of mahogany plywood, Chris Craft painted them white on the inside and the paint just doesn’t weather well. The missus has made it clear that she wants pretty cabinet interiors, so this is a good place to put the last of the 1/8″ plywood to good use.

Cleared of tools and materials

The pile of 1/8″ mahogany plywood scraps

My EZ-One track saw makes panel cutting super easy

The really big benefit of the track saw over a table saw is that the panel doesn’t move, the saw does. So breaking down panels in limited spaces like mine is easy, even when ripping full-length 8-foot panels. Another huge benefit–especially when working on an old boat where nothing is cut square–is that it’s no more difficult to cut a panel at a 91° angle (or whatever) than any other. You simply mark the near and far side of the panel where you want the cut, drop the track bridge, align the track to the marks, fire up the dust collector, and make the cut.

Pulling the last full 1/8th” mahogany sheet from the stack

Marking off the cut lines

Breaking down the panel one cut at a time

The upper back panel is done

That looks better!


I need to relocate tools that are in the lower cabinet, and then cut those panels. I’ll take them back to the house and  varnish them with Minwax Quick Dry Urethane before top coating with Minwax Urethane Spar Varnish

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Making the Ugly Galley Cabinet Pretty

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Assembling the Port Salon Cabinet Box

It was a long, cold winter, which was slowing down my progress by not getting warm enough for the epoxy to kick. But then it was 80°F in early March, and I thought winter was finally over. Then it snowed a couple of weeks ago, dumping a bunch of wet, heavy snow that hung around for days. There were a couple of warm days last week, but then over the weekend there were flurries of snow yet again! This is nuts!

Storm-damaged Tent Model XXX held up to the recent snow

Inside the salon, I was working on varnishing and assembling the port side cabinet box.

All the cabinet box panels are cut and fitted

I took all of the panels back to my house and varnished them using Minwax Quick Dry Urethane as the base and Urethane Spar Varnish as the top coat. The Quick Dry seems to soak in better, so I think it’ll make a better sealer, while the Spar Varnish is more viscous and builds up thicker in fewer coats. Once it’s fully cured, it’s a very tough product.

Varnished panels are being glued and screwed together

After wetting out the rabbets and panel edges with epoxy, I add wood flour to the epoxy until it’s the consistency of ketchup, then apply a bit to the joint and clamp it all together. If there’s any squeeze out, I wipe it up with small rags soaked in alcohol.

Nice fit

Need more clamps

I keep buying more clamps, and yet I find I still need more. It’s the craziest thing.

Opposite view

A week later, the epoxy had finally kicked

That’s a good looking cabinet box

Not bad!

Final install will have to wait until the AC ducting is in

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Aft Salon Cabinet.

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and fitting the Port Salon Cabinet

With the ceiling panels insulated and installed under the port side deck, next I got to work on the salon cabinet.

The ceiling panels under the deck are done

Dry fit the salon cabinet face panel

When we started on this refit, I was surprised to see that Chris Craft hadn’t finished the cabinet interiors with mahogany. Instead, when you opened the cabinet doors you could see the hull and douglas fir plywood floors, which they painted white. The missus doesn’t like that look (and, frankly, neither do I), so I’ll build a mahogany box to fit on the backside of the cabinet face panel, so when the doors are open we’ll see pretty wood.

Breaking down a 1/2″ sheet of mahogany plywood

The stack of plywood in the salon is getting smaller with each passing month. When it’s gone, the interior should be pretty much done.

The EZ-One tracksaw table makes quick work of breaking down the panel, and the cuts are super straight

Side panel is ready to dry fit

Good fit (though the pic is out of focus)

I considered running the panel all the way to the ceiling panel above, but I need to leave a gap for the air conditioning duct.

Fitting a 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleat for the cabinet bottom

Note the original white paint on the salon floor. That’s what you’d see when you opened the doors. I think my approach will be better.

More securely attaching the face panel

With the panel securely attached to the framing, it follows the slight curve of the deck.

The bottom panel edge needs a bit of a curve to match


That looks better

It was around this point that I realized that I made a mistake when ordering the plywood. Way back when I was dealing with the paperwork snafu and making the interior concept drawings, I used the CAD program Sketchup to estimate how many sheets of plywood I’d need. I copied the panels from the drawings and pasted them onto 4’x8′ rectangles, then counted the number of rectangles (adding a bit for waste) and ordered the plywood. While I was focused on minimizing the number of sheets of plywood I’d have to buy, I didn’t even think about grain orientation. In the pic above, you can see that the grain runs from the front of the panel to the back. But for all of the other panels, the grain runs parallel to the floor. It occurred to me at this point that it would look more pleasing to the eye if the grain for the bottom panel ran along the longest dimension. But…I’ve only got so much plywood. And for a cabinet interior, I’m not sure that it’s worth the investment to buy more expensive sheets of mahogany ply to make sure the grain is all oriented properly.

I’m going to write this off to me being an amateur and never having done cabinet work before. Once the boat’s done, I’ll probably never notice…probably.

1/8″ mahogany ply for the top cabinet panel

A slot in a strip of 1/2″ plywood will stiffen up the top panel

Like that

Fitting the aft cabinet wall panel

I took the other panels home and applied a coat of Minwax urethane varnish overnight.

The wall panel is coming together

Looks good!

Fuzzy pic, but a nice, tight fit

Cutting the back panel

I’m down to the last sheet of 1/8″ mahogany plywood

Ready to dry-fit the back panel



I took all these plywood pieces home and brushed on a few coats of urethane varnish. For cabinet interiors, it’s not worth setting up the spray booth and applying base and top coats of ICA clear, which I’ve used on all of the visible mahogany wall panels.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Assembling the Port Salon Cabinet Box.

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Insulating and Installing the Port Salon Panels

I wrapped up the varnish on the ceiling panels that go under the port side deck, then insulated the backside and installed them all.

I’m working in the port aft corner of the salon

The last ceiling panel is varnished, drilled, and ready for insulation

The backside gets wetted out with epoxy

Since I had epoxy mixed up, I glued and screwed all of the mahogany backing cleats in place.

Buffalo Batt insulation gets pressed in place

The forward ceiling panel also got insulated

And the middle panel, too

Next day…they’re ready to install

Next day, the forward panel is glued and screwed in place

The insulated envelope

The hull and deck are covered in spray foam insulation rated at R7. Then there’s the air gap, with the backside of each wooden panel insulated with Buffalo Batt, which provides an additional R3 insulation. The boat should be cozy in summer or winter with all of this insulation. I hope it’s worth the extra effort.

The middle panel was next

One more to go

The last panel goes here

The contact areas got wetted out with epoxy, then topped with wood flour-thickened epoxy


And that’s a wrap

With the insulation envelope done on the port side of the galley and salon, I can get to work on the salon cabinetry there.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and fitting the Port Salon Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fitting Still More Port Salon Panels

I cut more 1/8″ mahogany plywood for the under-deck ceiling panels on the port side, then took them home and put on a couple coats of Minwax urethane varnish. It’s not as tough a product as the ICA two-part catalyzed clear I’ve been using for all of the major interior paneling, but for closet interiors and other places that will never see direct sunlight it’s fine.

First, measure the gap every six inches

Marked off and ready to cut

Nice fit!


Plenty of space for Buffalo Batt Insulation

Two coats of Minwax later…

Time to test fit

Not bad!

Needs a batten to join the panels

Like that!

Pay no heed to the grain orientation

I’m using up the 1/8″ plywood scraps here, and I don’t care about grain orientation since the only people who will see these panels are the owner when it comes time to winterize the boat and put the ER vent panels in place, then recommissioning in the spring. They’ll be hidden behind a built-in settee.

Another batten to join the panels

The last outboard mahogany cleat is fitted

And the last panel is cut

I’ll varnish that panel then remove all of them, seal and insulate the backsides before I do the final glue-and-screw installation.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Insulating and Installing the Port Salon Panels